June 23, 2010 David Balzer

Colossians 2:6-23: Wot U R!

Every so often Daniel comes to me and says. “Ripped off!” Straight away I know it’s happened again. He’s been trading Pokemon cards. And part of the fun is to swap. Apparently. So you can build up your collection. But the trick is to make a FAIR swap. And if you don’t, then you’ve been ripped off! Bad trade!

Daniel starts with a good card, and trades it for something worse. It looked good. But when he thinks about it, he realises that what he HAD was better. And he wishes he could trade back.

We’ve told Daniel so many times. “Don’t trade! What you’ve got is great!” But it’s almost impossible for him to resist. “Perhaps there’s something better.” “Maybe THIS TIME it’ll work.” And so his wandering eye leads him into trouble.

And Paul’s message is the same. Don’t trade. What you’ve got in Christ is great. There’s nothing better.

He’s warning us to keep away from OTHER WAYS of doing things. Ways which seem to be useful, or helpful, or even godly and wise.

But I don’t want to spend much time SPECULATING about them. Mainly because it’s hard to work out exactly what it is that Paul’s warning us about. In fact, not even the bible scholars can agree!

But the other reason we’re not going to focus on what’s FALSE, is because that’s exactly what Paul’s warning us against. “Don’t get distracted from the main game. You already HAVE everything you need in Christ, so don’t go looking over the back fence. Even if it IS just to know what to keep away FROM.”

So let’s spend some time looking at WHAT WE ARE.

What’s Paul’s argument? His big idea in these verses? One of the best tricks is to look at the words that CONNECT the verses. And in this case there’s three that jump out.

Verse 6. THEREFORE, continue the way you started.

Verse 9 &10. BECAUSE you’re already full.

Verse 16. THEREFORE, don’t feel inferior. (repeat)

1. Therefore continue the way you started (6-8)

The first thing Paul does is encourage us to CONTINUE the way we STARTED. Verse 6

(Col 2:6 NIV)  So then, just as you RECEIVED Christ Jesus as Lord, CONTINUE to live in him,

(It’s literally to WALK in him)

I watched Lachlan in his school cross country carnival a few weeks ago. And when the gun went off, about forty boys sprinted off across the grass. It was 2 kms, and most people were running like it was only 100 m.

Within 50 m Lachlan was back to about 20th. Because I’d told him not to start too fast. For a moment I thought I’d given him the wrong advice. But sure enough, by the first corner, most of the boys in front had slowed down, or even started walking.

And Lachlan was able to work his way up through the field.

Paul’s warning is that we’re to keep going the way we started. Don’t run out of puff. Keep moving forward with the enthusiasm you had at the beginning. Don’t give up on what it is that you BELIEVED at first.

How DID the Colossians start? This is where the little “therefore” comes in. “THEREFORE, continue the way you started”. Paul’s just finished describing Jesus. The image of God, the fulness of God, the firstborn, the head of the body, the mystery revealed.

And how the Colossians have received THIS SAME JESUS. “So then, just as you received (this) Christ Jesus as Lord…”

Paul’s saying. Since you’ve received Jesus – the one who’s God, and whose your Messiah, (your Saviour), and your Lord, CONTINUE TO WALK THAT WAY.

What does THAT look like? Paul goes on to describe it. Verse 7.

(Col 2:7 NIV)  ROOTED and BUILT UP in him, strengthened in the faith as you were TAUGHT, and overflowing with thankfulness.

They were TAUGHT who Jesus was. Taught the Christian faith. And Paul uses three words to describe how that faith will show itself in their lives.

ROOTED, BUILT UP, AND STRENGTHENED.

1. Rooted.

Walking in Christ means growing deep roots like a tree down into him. Into Jesus.

It’s not about growing out and away. Broadening your experiences. New books, conferences, ways of life. New shortcuts to Christian maturity.

That’s what Paul warns about in v 8.

(Col 2:8 NIV)  See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

It’s ways of doing things which LOOK like they’ll work. But ultimately they’re HOLLOW. Empty. Worthless. Because they’re based on human tradition, rather than on what Jesus TAUGHT, or WHO Jesus WAS.

How can we tell the difference? By making sure our roots are deep in Jesus.

I’m dipping my toe into a great book by Richard Foster. The subtitle is “Celebrating the great traditions of Christian faith”. And it looks at what different parts of the Christian church have focussed on over the centuries. Ways of WALKING IN CHRIST. Ways of ROOTING DOWN DEEP into him.

Not because they’re HUMAN traditions. But because they’re IMITATING what Jesus himself did. We walk IN CHRIST, when we walk as Jesus did. When we practise the disciplines that JESUS HIMSELF practised.

What am I talking about? Foster identifies 6 traditions. And each one is concentrated on by a branch of the Christian church. And some of them might trouble us, becase they’re not what we’re used to. Not what our particular brand of Christian normally does. But that doesn’t make them wrong.

What’s so special about Foster’s book, is that he doesn’t go looking OUTSIDE of scripture, or looking for something NEW. He looks at Jesus. And he looks at what the church has done over the centuries. At the faith that’s been taught.

They’re the two conditions Paul sets. (walk in Christ, and strengthened in the faith you were taught) And so that keeps Foster from taking us captive with deceptive or hollow philosophies.

Here’s the titles of his 6 chapters.

1. The contemplative tradition. Discovering the PRAYER-FILLED life.

2. The holiness tradition. Discovering the VIRTUOUS life.

3. The charismatic tradition. Discovering the SPIRIT-EMPOWERED life.

4. The social justice tradition. Discovering the COMPASSIONATE life.

5. The evangelical tradition. Discovering the WORD-CENTRED life.

6. The incarnational tradition. Discovering the SACRAMENTAL life. (By that he means making ALL of your life Christian. Making everything you do WORSHIP)

5 and 6 are probably the ones that we relate most closely to. But we certainly need to learn how to do the others better.

The Pentecostals and some Catholic groups can teach us something about PRAYER. Various groups can teach us about getting serious about LIVING A HOLY LIFE. Once again the Pentecostals can teach us something about RECOGNISING AND USING the gifts of the Spirit. And the Salvo’s can teach us about taking our social responsibilities seriously.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not looking around us because it seems like a good idea. We do it because we recognise that that’s the way Jesus walked. And we want to follow HIM more closely.

Do you want to continue to walk in Christ? To grow deep into him? Then immerse yourself in the Gospels. To follow Jesus around just like the disciples. To eavesdrop on his prayers. His conversations with the needy. Be amazed at his open-ness to the Holy Spirit.

It’s what Psalm 1 talks about. Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. {3} He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

That’s being rooted in Christ.

2. Built up/ strengthened.

The second picture Paul uses is “built up”. Like a building on a strong foundation. And it’s the foundation that’s the key. And for us, that’s Christ. We’re to be built up, or strengthened, or edified IN HIM.

And that’s a job for all of us. It’s what the church does. In 1 Cor 14 Paul talks about spiritual gifts. Verse 26.

(1 Cor 14:26 NIV)  What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the STRENGTHENING (or BUILDING UP) of the church.

And the result is that as we focus on Jesus. As we encourage each other to obey him in our lives. As we remember his saving acts for us. It’s YOUR responsibility towards ME. It’s MY responsibility towards YOU. To strengthen and build EACH OTHER up.

And the result of THAT is that we OVERFLOW WITH THANKFULNESS.

Head affects heart. Theory affects practice. Being strengthened in the faith produces thankfulness.

Thankful people are contented people. Satisfied people. And satisfied people are happy with where they are, and what they’ve got. And that’s what Paul wants. People who aren’t searching for the next big thing. But who overflow with thankfulness to Christ because they’re living full lives IN HIM.

2. Because you’re already full (9-15)

a) already full (9-10)

And full lives is what Paul moves on to next. Verse 9 and 10. He contrasts the hollow or empty traditions with FULLNESS. Completeness. That’s only found in Christ. Verse 9.

(Col 2:9-10 NIV)  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, {10} and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.

Why shouldn’t we fall for empty promises and hollow ideas? Because we’re already FULL. Because Jesus is the fulness of God. Whatever God is, Jesus is. There’s nothing in God, that’s not in Jesus.

And we already have Jesus in us. That’s full to the brim! It’s literally, “You have, in him, been filled, or completed”

Once you received Christ, you were made full. Right at that very moment. The finished product. No more add-ons, or extensions.

You’ve been restored to a relationship with your Creator. You’ve been redeemed. You’re on your way to glory. You’re part of the new creation. Each day, you’re being made more like Jesus.

b) already circumcised (11-12)

And Paul gives us more reasons not to be taken captive. More reasons not to settle for hollow when we’re already full. Verse 11 and 12.

Human traditions like CIRCUMCISION are empty and worthless, because Christians are ALREADY circumcised. The old, empty, and worthless bits have already been cut off. Verse 11.

(Col 2:11 NIV)  In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,

When we became Christians we moved from OLD creation to NEW creation. We swapped camps. From the world that’s perishing, and falling apart, and doomed for destruction. To the world that God’s making new. That God’s got a future planned for.

Paul describes it in ANOTHER way using baptism. Baptism was a sign of a person’s entry into God’s family. And in v 12 Paul’s saying, “Look at THAT sign. Think back. That SHOWS that you’ve moved from one camp to the other. Don’t go back!” Verse 12

(Col 2:12 NIV)  HAVING BEEN BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM – (in which also you were) raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the .

Paul’s not saying that baptism MAKES someone a Christian. He’s saying that baptism is A PHYSICAL SIGN of something that happens spiritually. “Look at the sign!” he’s saying. The sign just represents OUTSIDE what happens INSIDE.

c) already free from the law’s demands (13-15)

And then he goes on, in v13, to remind the Colossians what DID happen to them on the inside. What God did when they became Christians. Verse 13.

(Col 2:13 NIV)  When you were in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

He made us alive. By forgiving our sins.

And then Paul paints a beautiful picture of what forgiveness of sins is like. It’s like God took the law. All of God’s regulations and “do’s” and “don’t’s”. The sheet with all the accusations against us.

And nailed it to Jesus’ cross.

Here’s all the charges that Jesus is being punished for. YOU’VE broken every single one of them. But I’m going to charge JESUS with them. And HE’S going to die, instead. Verse 14.

(Col 2:14 NIV)  having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against US and that stood opposed to US; he took it away, nailing it to THE CROSS.

It was God’s amazing, profound victory. It looked like defeat. But rather than making a spectacle of Jesus, the cross made a public spectacle of his enemies. Verse 15.

(Col 2:15 NIV)  And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

The picture is of a defeated, foreign king. Being paraded through the streets for everyone to laugh at. His army was THIS CLOSE to victory. All the powers and authorities of the world. But then it was ed from under their noses. And now they’re the butt of everyone’s jokes.

And Paul’s point/ is that Christians are the ones on the winning side. We’re the victorious ones. We’ve got everything. Don’t trade.

3. Therefore don’t feel inferior (16-23)

And that leads into the next part of Paul’s argument. Notice the “THEREFORE”. Since you’re victorious in Christ, THEREFORE don’t feel inferior. Other people reckon they’ve got the inside running on spirituality, or the victorious Christian life.

One group might say, “Just keep all the Old Testament festivals. Eat the right things. Drink the right things. Always at the right times. And anyone who doesn’t isn’t really a Christian”. Verse 16.

(Col 2:16 NIV)  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

Paul’s point is that all of these things are nothing compared to the real thing. They’re like shadows. Verse 17.

(Col 2:17 NIV)  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

“The things to come” is the new age. The new creation. That Jesus began. And that we’re a part of. It’s what we’re living in now.

But the feasts and festivals are part of the old way.

It’s like going to the footy. And cheering the Under 6’s who’re playing before the main game. And as soon as the main game starts, you get up and leave.

Don’t settle for the entrée, the old way of doing things, because it’s nothing compared to the main course.

It’s what I do at parties. I fill up on dip. And when the beautiful hot food comes out, I’m too full to fit much in. Don’t trade the new in for the old.

And Paul mentions ANOTHER mistake. Verse 18. If it’s not legalists, it might be mystics. People who see visions, or who go on journeys with angels. “Do what I do, and then you’ll be ”.

Paul argues, in v19, rather than leading people TOWARD Christ, they’re not even connected to him themselves. Instead it’s only THE TRUE CHURCH, who walk in Christ, who are joined to him. Verse 19.

(Col 2:19 NIV)  He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Paul sums up in v20-23. Since you died to the old creation, don’t go back there. Whenever you let the world’s rules affect you, it’s like you’re living back there.

My friend Naomi studies at the PTC. Young . 24. And she received a marriage proposal the other day. That in itself isn’t unusual. But here’s the bit that is! The groom was someone she’d never met. And the proposal itself wasn’t even from the groom.

She was asked if she would be interested in an arranged marriage. She’s an Aussie, but an Egyptian student had agreed to find a wife for his friend. Naomi fitted the criteria. So, in all seriousness, he asked her if she was interested.

She said something like, “We’re not living in Egypt. So don’t act like we are!” I’m sure it’s a comment many 2nd generation Greek s have made to their strict fathers. Or Arabic, or Italian.

Paul’s point is. You died to the old country. So don’t act like you’re still there. Rules that only focus on PHYSICAL things are perishing. Just like the physical things THEMSELVES. Verse 20.

(Col 2:20-22 NIV)  Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: {21} “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? {22} These are all destined to perish with use., because they are based on human commands and teachings.

Physical rules, by themselves, are useless because they only affect physical things. They concentrate on things of this age. They don’t affect what’s lasting.

It’s the spiritual things. Things to do with God, and godliness, which are important. Genuine holiness isn’t to be had simply by keeping ritual, or ticking off lists of tasks, or meeting earthly or human expectations.

True holiness, true life – full life – is found when we learn to walk in Christ. To sink our roots deep down into him. To follow in his footsteps.

Walking in Christ is about discovering the PRAYER-FILLED life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the VIRTUOUS life.

Walking in Christ is about discovering the SPIRIT-EMPOWERED life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the COMPASSIONATE life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the WORD-CENTRED life. Walking in Christ is about discovering the SACRAMENTAL life. Letting ALL of life be lived in submission to Jesus.

(Col 2:6-7 NIV)  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, {7} rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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